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Archibald Johnston Papers

Identifier: SC MS 0281

Scope and Contents

The contents of the collection were presented to Lehigh University in archive boxes with a “bookplate” of the autograph Arch Johnston written over the legs of a two-humped camel with Box # ____ and on the bottom of “bookplate” label is printed Janet Johnston Housenick and William D. Housenick Memorial Foundation as identifier on seven of the boxes, the remainder just have Archibald Johnston Papers handwritten on plain labels.


  • Creation: 1885 to 2005
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1888 to 1948


Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Archibald Johnston was born May 30, 1864 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, one of ten children. The family moved from Phoenixville to Bethlehem between 1869 and 1872. From June 1877 to 1880, as a boy he worked in the Bethlehem Iron Company’s No. 1 Machine Shop. From June 1881 to September 1884, he worked in the Machine Shop, the Bessemer Plant and the 25” and 28” rail mill. He entered Lehigh University and graduated from Lehigh in the Class of 1889 in Mechanical Engineering. He was engaged to Estelle Borhek June 13, 1889. They married February 12, 1891 in the Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem. They had three children with two surviving: Archibald Borhek was born June 11, 1894 and Elizabeth Margaret born April 3, 1899 both at home at 120 Church St., Bethlehem. Arch Johnston started work on June 21, 1889 in the physical laboratory at the Bethlehem Iron Company. In August 1889 he erected and operated the Whitworth 36” forge in the #1 building of Bethlehem Iron Co. May 1890 he started the 36” forge and the forging at the 25” press. In November 1890 he started the erection of the 149 ton armor plate hammer, then the 7000 ton bending press, also furnaces and engines. In February of 1894, he made his first trip to St. Petersburg, Russia to supervise the measurements for armor plate on the battleship Petro Pavlosk which followed with a second trip to Russia in 1895. (In 1887 Bethlehem Iron Co. had secured a contract to make armor plate and large caliber guns for the U.S. Maine, so Johnston had a significant position representing Bethlehem Iron in Russia). January 1900, he was appointed assistant General Superintendent of the Bethlehem Steel Company (in 1899 Bethlehem Iron Co. became Bethlehem Steel Co.) and in August 1901its General Superintendent. (In 1904 Charles M. Schwab with Joseph Wharton negotiated the conversion of Bethlehem Steel Company into Bethlehem Steel Corporation.) In 1905 Johnston was elected to the 1st National Bank board in place of John Fritz, who was a prominent person in Bethlehem Iron Company, the predecessor of Bethlehem Steel Company. In 1906 Archibald Johnston was appointed president of the Bethlehem Steel Company by Schwab, who was Chairman of the Board. Eugene G. Grace (Lehigh Class of 1899) took Johnston’s place as General Superintendent. In June 1908 Schwab moved from New York to South Bethlehem and took over the Presidency of the Corporation until 1912 when Johnston was made first vice-president of the Corporation. Eugene Grace was made General Manager. In 1912 Johnston was sent to represent Bethlehem Steel Corporation in South American to negotiate for coastal defense armament and ships with the governments of Chile, Argentina and Brazil (according to the Letterbook of 1912). Johnston also had a position in the Juragua Iron Company Mines in Cuba from 1912 to 1914. In 1913-1914 Johnston represented the Corporation in China. In 1916 there was a move to consolidate the two Bethlehem boroughs into City status. This move was motivated by Schwab and in 1917 he designated Johnston as the first mayor of the City of Bethlehem. Johnston served one term as mayor from 1918 to 1921 but always maintained an interest in the City. During the time of 1921 to 1928 he was involved with the building of the Hill-to-Hill Bridge. He retired from Bethlehem Steel Corporation September 1, 1925 and died February 1, 1948.

Janet Johnston Housenick, Archibald Johnston’s granddaughter, was the third daughter of Archibald Borhek and Jean Collins Hale Johnston. She was born July 5, 1932 in Philadelphia and eventually became the last owner of the family estate known as Camel’s Hump Farm, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She was educated at the Moravian Seminary for Girls, Chatham (Va.) Hall and a graduate of the Moravian Proprietary School (Moravian Academy) and Briarcliff Junior College (New York). She was married to William Daniel Housenick (1938-2002) who had a Master’s degree in education from Lehigh University and taught in the Bethlehem School system. She died August 2, 2005. From her estate, she donated 55 acres of land to Bethlehem Township which became known as the Housenick Memorial Park in 2005 and functions as a passive park. The 17-room Georgian-Colonial-style residence of Archibald Johnston came into the public domain in 2005 upon Janet Housenick’s death even though she was survived by her two older sisters. She and her husband formed a foundation that contributed money to the upkeep of the Housenick Memorial Park and the mansion.


10 Linear Feet (15 light gray archival boxes) ; 10 linear feet

Language of Materials



Collection of wide ranging documents related to Archibald Johnston, a prominent graduate of Lehigh University Class of 1889, noting his careers at Bethlehem Steel Corporation and as the first mayor of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The material is complimentary to an earlier received Johnston collection of cablegrams sent while Mr. Johnston represented Bethlehem Steel Company in South America.


The arrangement appears have no systematic chronology. The contents of the fifteen boxes, as presented to the Special Collections, have not been disturbed but an attempt had been made to sort the contents of each folder within each box into a vague semblance of chronological order.

Other Finding Aids

SC MS 0137 Archibald Johnston Letterbook 1912 SC Photographs 0011 Juragua Iron Company Mine Photographs 1912-1914

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Tim Brady, as a caretaker of Archibald Johnston’s granddaughter, Janet Johnston Housenick’s estate signed the deed of gift over to Lehigh University’s Special Collections. Janet Johnston Housenick was the last resident and owner of the Camel’s Hump Farm. Upon her death Mr. Brady assembled the artifacts left in the mansion and gave the contents of the Archibald Johnston collection to Lehigh in November 2014. John Marquette, an associate of Mr. Brady, made the preliminary inventory of the collection before it was presented to Lehigh. Camel’s Hump Farm was built around 1923 by Johnston as a gentleman’s farm. Archibald Johnston was a member of Lehigh’s Class of 1889. This collection of material was found in the house upon Janet Johnston Housenick’s death and removed by Mr. Brady before the house and associated land became a private foundation for preservation as a historical site for the City of Bethlehem.

Related Materials

SC MS 0137 Archibald Johnston Letterbook 1912 SC Photographs 0011 Juragua Iron Company Mine Photographs 1912-1914 Archibald Johnston Letterbook 1912, SC MS 0137

Separated Materials

A Johnston Family birthday book has been removed by Tim Brady, who signed the gift of deed of the collection. This item, although noted in Mr. Marquette’s cataloging, was removed following presentation to Lehigh. Also a couple of interesting little books of poetry and nursery rhymes and a Mustard and Cheese Dramatic Club program are cataloged within this collection but specially preserved in another part of Special Collections.

Ilhan Citak and Eleanor Nothelfer
November 14, 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)